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Insider Only Spring Training Buzz: Clement struggling at the plate; Should the Pirates have sold high on Duke?

Bradenton, FL Spring Training News and Notes
Clement needs to prove he can hit — All of the focus surrounding first baseman Jeff Clement has been about his fielding at first base.
It’s been an adjustment period for Clement but from where he was the first day of spring training to now, he has made great strides.
However, Clement has regressed at the plate. He’s 1-for-13 heading into this afternoon’s game, where he will bat 5th in the order.
He’s not a player that you can put at the bottom of the order and whether he becomes a regular in the majors is going to rely on his ability to hit. At age 26, there are still doubts.
*Bullpen a strong suit for the Pirates – Management believes an improved bullpen is going to be the key to the Pirates competing this season.
GM Neal Huntington has rebuilt his bullpen and there have been a number of bright spots thus far.
Among them are Brendan Donnelly, D.J. Carrasco and lefty Javier Lopez. Donnelly whose work has been limited due to his age, is 6-for-6 in the spring with four strikeouts. Meanwhile, Lopez and Carrasco have yet to surrender a run.
Carrasco has drawn the praise of GM Neal Huntington of late and he’s all but a lock to make the team.
On the negative side, the age of the Pirates bullpen will be a concern all season. Injuries have already been a problem for Huntington’s rebuilt bullpen.
Sources in the organization indicate 7th inning reliever Joel Hanrahan will be out until at least mid-April, while closer Octavio Dotel remains limited and will go into the season opener with minimal work.
Should the Pirates have sold high on Zach Duke? – GM Neal Huntington lives by the philosophy of selling high on his assets. It was one of the reasons he traded Nate McLouth.
Huntington had a smiliar situation on his hands last year at the trade deadline with pitcher Zach Duke.
After two horrendous seasons in 2007 and 2008, Duke had a strong first half of the 2009 season, posting a 9-9 record with a 3.29 era at the end of July and being named to the All-Star Game.

The Pirates received a number of inquiries on Duke but opted to keep him and some league executives believe that Duke’s value may never be higher than it was last July.
Since August 2009, Duke has struggled mightily.
In the second half of last season, Duke posted ERA’s of 5.76 in August and 5.34 in September and in spring training he has not pitched well, posting a 7.71 ERA in two starts.
Game Day Lineups
The Pirates host the Tampa Bay Rays this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Kevin Hart who is battling for the No. 5 spot in the rotation will start for the Pirates. Top prospect Jose Tabata will play center field and bat 2nd.
1. Aki Iwamura (2B)
2. Jose Tabata (CF)
3. Lastings Milledge (LF)
4. Ryan Doumit (DH)
5. Jeff Clement (1B)
6. Andy LaRoche (3B)
7. Ronny Cedeno (SS)
8. John Raynor (RF)
9. Hector Gimenez (C)

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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